Full time university student Jessica Bell is taking her passion for swimming into the Thames, pledging to swim both in and out of her wetsuit in memory of her grandpa who died from lung cancer in 2018.
“Grandpa is the reason I love swimming, he was a naval aviator and former captain in the US Navy. He always pushed me and encouraged me. It helped that my grandparents had a swimming pool in their garden in San Diego where I lived for most of my childhood.
When I was a child, he’d have to announce that the pool was closing just to get me out the pool, otherwise I would be in there forever.
As you can imagine, me and my grandpa had a very close relationship. People often said I look just like him but in a dress.”
Jessica will be taking on the Suits vs. Skins race on Sunday 10th July as part of the Henley Swim Festival in Henley-on-Thames.
She has pledged to raise £1,000 for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation with her fundraising page already accumulating over £700.
Me and my grandpa
“Grandpa was a very hardworking and determined man. He loved us all so much and wanted to give us the best opportunities.”
He was 78 when he passed, having fought lung cancer for four years, and he was the type of man that made a lasting impression. We all miss having him in our lives.
“I was only 17 when he died so I wasn’t fully aware of his lung cancer journey, my parents shielded me from a lot of it. I do know he bought a Rolls Royce before he died just because he wanted one.
My grandpa has stayed with me, even when we moved to England when I was 11, we were still close.
I always remember him throwing in coins into the pool for me and my cousins to collect and if we did, we got to keep them. Diving underwater became natural, and I was soon a very confident swimmer.”
Taking to the water
“My love for swimming has never wavered, even when we moved. I swam for my school and county, and I was the swimming captain at my secondary school.
I decided to swim in the Thames because I’ve never done anything like this, and I wanted it to be a challenge. I’m a pool swimmer by nature but I’ve recently fell in love with open water swimming.
Despite open water swimming mainly being in a lake I really wanted to try a river because of the current and tidal nature of the Thames.
I’ve never swam a race that includes both with and without a wetsuit, so I really do think it’s a challenge. I’ll be swimming one mile for each race and I’m going to try to match my times for both swims.”
I’m feeling good about my upcoming swim. I mostly want to enjoy it and raise money for the charity in memory of my grandpa.
Show your support to Jessica by visiting her JustGiving page here.